Physician practices also at risk
Employed physicians, naturally, are in danger of losing access to their electronic health records if their hospital’s network goes down as the result of a cyberattack, he notes. Many community doctors also use the EHR of a local hospital, and they’d be similarly affected, Mr. Riggi noted.
Physician practices might be saved if the attack were directed at the hospital and they could still connect to the EHR through a cloud provider, Mr. McMillan said. But Mr. Riggi stressed that practices still need a plan for their doctors to keep working if they lose access to a hospital EHR.
“The other possibility is that the practice could be targeted,” he added. “As hospitals become more hardened, often these hackers are looking for the weak link. The practices could become victims of increased targeting. And the practice becomes the conduit for malware to go from its system to the hospital and infect the hospital system.”
Hackers can hit service suppliers
Hospitals’ mission-critical service suppliers may also be targeted by Russian hackers and others, or they may be the accidental victims of a cyberattack elsewhere, Mr. Riggi noted. In the case of Nuance, he said, the disruption in transcription services affected thousands of U.S. healthcare providers who were unable to access their transcribed notes. This not only harmed patient care, but also meant that hospitals couldn’t fully bill for their services.
Another type of service supplier, he said, was struck with a ransomware attack last year. This was a cloud-based service that operated linear accelerators used in radiation oncology. “So radiation oncology and cancer treatment for patients across the U.S. was disrupted, and radiation oncology was delayed for some patients up to 3 weeks.”
More recently, another cloud-based service called Kronos was struck by ransomware. Because of this incident, payroll and timekeeping services were disrupted across several industries, including healthcare.
A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.